Jan 26 2013

Getting a Grip on Hot Pots

Little things mean a lot. And that’s never truer than it is in camp. Small items that we take for granted around the house assume an elevated importance when the nearest Walmart is 100 miles away—as the canoe paddles. Take pot-grips, for instance. Most kitchen pots come complete with substantial fixed handles. But camping pots often don’t. Yet camp cookware gets just as hot as its home-kitchen counterparts. Which means that getting a grip is as tricky as it is important. Take if from me: Burns are no joke in the backcountry. Even “minor” burns can make paddling, climbing, or cycling a misery.

I was reminded of the importance of getting a grip just last week. No, I wasn’t cooking over an open fire. I was in my kitchen at home. But an old enameled pot that’s been my maid-of-all-work for two decades suddenly developed the shakes. Or rather, the handle did. And a perfunctory inspection told me that the condition was terminal. Corrosion had done its work. The handle could no longer be relied on, and my pot was destined for the recycling bin. First, though, I had a meal to prepare.

What to do? Then I remembered the pot-grips in my kitchen pack. I have two:

Get a Grip

The closer one—the one with the multiple perforations in the grip—is a Primus. It’s a recent purchase. The other is a Mirro that I’ve had for years. (I think it came with a cookset, but I can’t be sure.) Both do the job, however, allowing the camp cook to maneuver hot pots on and off the stove or fire without risking singed hands.

These seemingly simple tools actually embody some mighty clever engineering. And not all the pot-grips I’ve used have measured up. Some were too short. Others were too flimsy. And a few left pot rims badly scarred. There are striking differences between serviceable grips, too, as this photo makes clear:

Check the Gap

Like I said, both do the job. But the Mirro has a bigger “bite.” In fact, it was the only one that opened wide enough to grip the rim of my old enameled pot. Of course, the width of the jaws also matters. As the next photo shows, the Primus (it’s the one with the perforated grip, remember?) takes the honors here:

Lippy

All things being equal, therefore, it holds pots just a bit more securely than the Mirro, and it’s longer, as well. That’s good news when the flames are leaping high. But the rubber blebs are a worry. I suppose they’re there to protect your pots’ showroom shine. My camping cookware lost its high luster a long time ago, however. And rubber softens when heated. It also burns. So the blebs will be charred blobs before too long. Luckily, they’re not essential.

One last point. A pot-grip is only as good as its hinge. So check the pin from time to time. If it’s showing signs of wear, it’s time to shop for a replacement. (That’s why I got the Primus, in fact. But the Mirro isn’t down for the count yet.)

We're Cookin'

Pot-grips may not rate much space in the gearhead blogs, but don’t underestimate their importance. If you need convincing, try cycling or paddling for a week with a badly burned hand. Better yet, don’t. Just use your imagination. It will give you a lasting appreciation of the inestimable value that little things acquire whenever you leave home and hearth behind you.

Getting a grip. In the kitchen, just as in life, there’s nothing more important.

Reader Scott Nussbaumer has another use for pot-grips:

I couldn't live without the Mirro pot lifter! I even use it on my aluminum plate for very hot food.

Great idea, Scott—thanks!



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